Kirkwood Wins Again in USF2000 as Pabst Extends Team Points Lead
LEXINGTON, Ohio – The seas keep on parting for Kyle Kirkwood. Let nothing take away from his spectacular season in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, but Kirkwood certainly has enjoyed – and/or earned – his share of good fortune, as evidenced again today at Mid-Ohio when pole-sitter Kaylen Frederick outbraked himself at Turn Two on the opening lap and gifted second-place qualifier Kirkwood the lead. Needless to say, the talented 19-year-old from Jupiter, Fla., took full advantage by romping away to his ninth win of the season – and eighth in succession – for Cape Motorsports.
Lucas Kohl, from Santa Cruz do Sul, Brazil, salvaged second place for Pabst Racing for the second straight day, while Japanese-born Brazilian Igor Fraga fought his way past Pabst Racing’s Rasmus Lindh, from Sweden, at half-distance to complete the podium for Exclusive Autosport.
Once Frederick had lost another opportunity to claim a long overdue maiden victory, teammates Kohl and Lindh, from Sweden, exchanged places on the opening lap with Kohl, who started fourth, sneaking past Lindh to emerge in second position. Fraga tucked in behind, followed by Michael d’Orlando, from Hartsdale, N.Y., who once again displayed good speed for Team BENIK.
After an early caution to recover Oscar DeLuzuriaga’s Newman Wachs Racing car following a spin at the Carousel and then another to remove the stricken cars of Sabre Cook (Team BENIK) and Frederick – who had been attempting to fight his way back through the field – Kirkwood once again took off into the lead.
His eventual margin of victory was a comfortable 5.7167 seconds. The result earned winning car owners Dominic and Nicholas Cape their ninth PFC Award of the season in just 11 races.
Fraga made his move on Lindh on Lap 10, shortly after the restart, to secure his third podium of the year, although Lindh’s fourth-place finish was enough to maintain a one-point advantage over Fraga for second place in the championship with three races remaining. The result also enabled Pabst Racing to extend its Team Championship lead to nine points, 268-259, over Cape Motorsports.
Dakota Dickerson (ArmsUp Motorsports), from San Diego, made up four positions from 11th on the grid on the opening lap and then ran as high as fifth for much of the 20-lap race before being overtaken just two laps from the finish by Calvin Ming (Pabst Racing), from Georgetown, Guyana.
Dickerson was chased home by Colin Kaminsky (DEForce Racing), who earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award after fighting his way from 16th on the grid to seventh ahead of South African Julian Van der Watt (Team Pelfrey), Singapore’s Danial Frost (Exclusive Autosport) and Yuven Sundaramoorthy, 15, from Guilderland, N.Y., who continued to make strong progress during his maiden USF2000 weekend with Exclusive Autosport to complete the top 10.
With the grid for tomorrow’s third leg of the weekend’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Mid-Ohio Grand Prix Powered by Mazda being set according to each driver’s fastest race lap today, several drivers opted to make pit stops after falling out of contention in order to ensure a clear run and start as far up tomorrow’s field as possible. The most successful of these was England’s James Raven (DEForce Racing), who eclipsed Kirkwood’s best effort to secure the fastest lap of the race at 1:21.3348. Raven, also in his first weekend of USF2000 competition, will start on the pole for tomorrow’s 12th race of the season.
Kyle Kirkwood (#8 Firstex/SAFEisFAST.com/Bell Helmets/Sparco-Cape Motorsports Tatuus-Mazda USF-17): “Kaylen locked up going into Turn Two and went straight, and that put us in a good position. Our car is good out front: we have a really good race pace car and we could pull away on the first few laps. I wasn’t too nervous on the restarts because of that – it was just another chance to pull out a gap. The toughest part was trying to take care of the car but also pushing as hard as we could to get a good time for tomorrow’s race.
“Even though I’ve clinched the title, the goal stays the same, to keep winning races and to try to tie for most wins in a season. This point of the season is the most important. We’ve won the championship but we have to prove that we won’t let up. If we relax, that would show that I’m not extremely focused and that’s not the case. This is just the beginning of my career so I’m going to keep charging.”
Lucas Kohl (#22 Bellko Trading/Kohltrade/IVI Vision-Pabst Racing Tatuus-Mazda USF-17): “I came out of Turn Two in second right behind Kyle and my first thought was ‘oh, I’ve seen this movie before.’ We found speed but Kyle found more as well. My restarts were better today but I just didn’t have enough to get by him. I’m just disappointed for the team. We had a chance to have two cars on the podium again. But there’s still so much at stake in the season: as a race car driver, it’s in your nature to always be competitive and that’s what we’re all going to do. I can still finish second in the championship and that’s my goal – that, and to keep this podium roll going! We’ve earned a lot of points this weekend by protecting the car and not being involved in stupidity and my goal is the same for tomorrow.”
Igor Fraga (#91 Cenibra/Usiminas-Exclusive Autosport Tatuus-Mazda USF-17): “It was a really hard battle with Rasmus, he’s a really fast kid. I worked at it behind him until I thought it was possible to try to pass, and I did. It was good to feel as though I’m getting closer to the top of the field. I feel good because we are improving every time and finishing in the top five. I’m almost in second place in the championship so hopefully we’ll keep getting the results. It’s a difficult balance, to go hard but knowing you have to finish (due to budgetary constraints). You don’t think about it during the race: you have to be aggressive and fight for position. That’s my way to drive a car.”
About USF2000: The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda debuted in 2010 and is a continuation of the highly-regarded USF2000 series which ran from 1990 through 2006, launching the careers of many of today’s top drivers. Sanctioned by INDYCAR and managed by Andersen Promotions, the series is the first official step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder system. The top driver in the Championship class will earn a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires the following year. Additional information can be found at www.usf2000.com and at RoadToIndy.Info.
About Mazda, Mazda Motorsports: Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook.
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company is the parent company of a global family of companies that specializes in the design, manufacture, marketing and sale of innovative, great-performing tires that you can count on to last for thousands of miles, getting you where you need to go, and back again. Cooper is proud to be the spec tire for all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, a development program within the Verizon IndyCar Series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor of the Americas Rallycross and short course off-road racing. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations in more than one dozen countries around the world. To connect with Cooper, visit www.coopertire.com, www.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/teamcoopertire.